The concepts and principles in this post were inspired by a series of topics presented at the CCCU Commission on Technology 2015 Conference. I was privileged to deliver my presentation entitled “A Fresh Perspective on Responsive Web Design.” What you are about to read is a collection of the valuable thoughts and proven principles used as the basis of my presentation.
“To serve others.”
A moral principle. An admirable goal. Most importantly, a method for success.
A method for success?
Now, that’s certainly a different way of thinking about it. Often seen as simply “the right thing to do”, making service a primary goal is much more. It’s the key to bringing real and true value.
Look at it this way. We are all designers of something. Whether it is a daily schedule, a financial spreadsheet, a meal, a driving route, a website, or this article that you are reading, we all find ourselves planning the details of many things in life.
Here’s the important part: each one of those situations or items that we design equates to an experience for someone else.
Sometimes, our client is a student. Maybe it’s a colleague, staff member or faculty. It could be a member of our family.
Maybe it’s even ourselves.
What About Me?
Think about that last comment for a moment. You are the customer; the one on the receiving end. Let’s face it — we’ve all had at least one horrible customer experience in your life. (The exception to this rule is if you have never talked to people.) We naturally know how we want to be treated, and we expect others to know and understand the right way to provide a service. When we are treated poorly, we react negatively, and there are often repercussions to the relationship between the service provider and us as the client.
Let’s turn the tables around, now. We are the ones providing the service. We are the ones designing the experience. Our clients expect to be treated well; to be presented with an experience that is thoughtful, effective and pleasing. Each of us can admit that this is true because this is what we naturally desire for ourselves.
So what do we do with this?
A Perspective Shift
It takes some real and intentional effort to shift our thinking from “just get the job done” to “what’s the most user-friendly way to design this experience?” This word “experience” is not a magic, mysterious concept, but rather a tangible and very real point in time for someone, somewhere. The key is to remember that this “someone” may very well be us — and if it may not be us at any point in time, we should still envision ourselves in our users shoes.
We have all worked on something. That’s a general statement and it surely holds true. Be it a story, a print or web design, an email response… whatever it is, we have all been the designers — the creators — of something (lots of things, hopefully!). Bringing honesty into the mix of providing real value and true service introduces a few questions that we can ask…
- Is my point clearly expressed and effectively communicated for the recipient to understand?
- Am I leaving something out that will result in questions to be asked seeking clarity on the topic?
- If I were the person on the other end, would I be happy? Satisfied? Have my expectations fulfilled?
A lot of time, the truth is we don’t want feedback. Naturally, we don’t want to reevaluate our methods and approaches. Trust me, I know firsthand! My gut response to feedback requiring change is typically a groan.
But do we want to achieve real success? To make our efforts truly worthwhile and bring real value to the person on the other end?
I think the answer to that is a resounding “yes”. We all want our work to be useful and effective. We want our efforts to prove successful.
So how can we do this?
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Working better. It may mean working harder and putting more effort into changing the way we operate and approach. It may mean working harder in some cases. But that’s not the goal. Working harder, stretching our resources thinner is not the way to succeed. Working smarter — now we’re talking. And that’s what we’re talking about here and now. Finding a better way, if there is one; often times, there is, and it will benefit not only us, but the people whose pending experiences we are creating.
Steps for Success
There is no specific formula for success, but these seven powerful guidelines will help tremendously.
- Ask. How can we make it better? What works? What doesn’t?
- Listen. Desire feedback from the people who are on the receiving end. Be honest.
- Hear. Based on the feedback, what needs to change? What am I hearing that is a problem?
- Think. If I could improve this experience and was not limited by time, resources, or the like, how would that look? What’s the dream solution?
- Balance. Over-innovation and under-innovation are both problems. A solution with too much complexity can cause a loss in value. Too simple can overlook key components and prove invaluable.
- Don’t be afraid of change. We can all agree that, most of the time, we really don’t like change. Let’s focus on looking at things from the client’s perspective and work to bring an improved experience. Often times, willingness to reevaluate a process will reveal a better way of doing things for us, too!
- Work together. Communicate and share ideas for how to fulfill the vision.